Hamilton Wins in Japan; Closes in on Title
SUZUKA, Japan—R.I.S.- Lewis Hamilton edged ever so closer to equaling Juan Manuel Fangio’s five world championships as the Briton took the Japanese Grand Prix Sunday afternoon from start to finish at the Suzuka International Circuit, 12 seconds clear of teammate Valtteri Bottas and third place Max Verstappen.
Hamilton got off right from the beginning of the race, utilizing a gap of 3.7 seconds ahead of Bottas by lap 18, and continued to increase it by the checkered flag. Hamilton now leads championship rival Sebastian Vettel by a huge 67 points with four races to go. But Hamilton is not thinking about the championship just yet.
“Honestly, I’ll take it one step at a time”, said Hamilton moments after winning his ninth victory of the year.
Following a clean start, Haas F1 Team’s Kevin Magnussen was a victim of a rear left side tire puncture on lap two, bringing out the safety car for five laps, following his collision with Sauber’s Charles LeClerc. The Dane got the worst of it and retired shortly after. Nico Hulkenberg exited later in the middle of the race, when his Renault was too loose in the rear following a spin earlier in the race. Finally, LeClerc’s car could not handle the earlier damage from his shunt with Magnussen and had a mechanical issue at Dagar 1 corner on lap 38, becoming the final retirement of the race, when the Monegasque pulled his car off the track and created a virtual safety car for a couple of laps.
Daniel Ricciardo, who started 15th, because of an engine power failure the day before, now had a huge reversal of fortune and worked his way up the grid to take a fine fourth place, while Kimi Raikkonen finished fifth. Sebastian Vettel, needed big points for his fight in the world championship, collided with Verstappen at Spoon Corner on the eighth lap and dropped back to 19th place, before like Ricciardo, worked his way up the grid to take sixth. Force India continued their double points finish, with Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon finishing seventh and ninth, respectively. The American Haas F1 Team scored additional points as well, taking eighth. Carlos Sainz Jr. passed Pierre Gasly with laps to go to take tenth, disappointing all home Honda fans, who were looking forward to having Gasly take a point for the first time in the Japanese car’s history at this circuit.
For Hamilton, another win and Vettel finishing worse than second in the next race in Austin, Texas will secure him that elusive fifth title for the Briton. And to make things tougher for Vettel and his Ferrari team, Hamilton has won at this American race track six times already. But he is not bragging just yet.
“Each week you have a positive weekend and you go to another Grand Prix and you’re not sure how you’re going to fare and how you’re going to perform, because there are still gaps in between.” He continued. “But I think we have gone from strength to strength this year as a team, so I really hope that we can [win]. Austin is usually a good track for us, so I can’t wait to unleash this beast there.”
JAPANESE GRAND PRIX
At Suzuka International Circuit, Suzuka, Japan
Final race results
1 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes
2 Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes—12 seconds behind
3 Max Verstappen (NED) Red Bull Racing
4 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing
5 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari
6 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari
7 Sergio Perez (MEX) Force India
8 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Haas F1 Team
9 Esteban Ocon (FRA) Force India
10 Carlos Sainz Jr. (SPA) Renault
11 Pierre Gasly (FRA) Toro Rosso
12 Marcus Ericsson (SWE) Sauber
13 Brendon Hartley (NZL) Toro Rosso
14 Fernando Alonso (SPA) McLaren
15 Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL) McLaren
16 Sergey Sirotkin (RUS) Williams
17 Lance Stroll (CDN) Williams
18 Charles LeClerc (MON) Sauber—mechanical- lap 38
19 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Renault—lap 37- accident—lap 37
20 Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Haas F1 Team- mechanical—lap 8
A 16 year veteran of writing formula one racing weekend race reports, features and team launches, Mark has worked for such companies as all-sports, e-sports, The Munich Eye newspaper in Germany, racingnation.com and Autoweek. A former member for this site four years ago, Mark now is a contributor for R.I.S.